Love's Labour's Lost - William Shakespeare - ebook

Love's Labour's Lost ebook

William Shakespeare



Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s for a performance at the Inns of Court before Queen Elizabeth I. It follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to forswear the company of women for three years of study and fasting, and their subsequent infatuation with the Princess of France and her ladies. In an untraditional ending for a comedy, the play closes with the death of the Princess's father, and all weddings are delayed for a year. The play draws on themes of masculine love and desire, reckoning and rationalization, and reality versus fantasy. Though first published in quarto in 1598, the play's title page suggests a revision of an earlier version of the play. While there are no obvious sources for the play's plot, the four main characters are loosely based on historical figures. The use of apostrophes in the play's title varies in early editions, though it is most commonly given as Love's Labour's Lost. The historical personages portrayed and the political situation in Europe relating to the setting and action of the play were familiar to Shakespeare's audiences. Scholars suggest that the play lost popularity as these historical and political portrayals of Navarre's court became dated and less accessible to theatergoers of later generations. The play's sophisticated wordplay, pedantic humour and dated literary allusions may also be reasons for its relative obscurity, as compared with Shakespeare's more popular works. Love's Labour's Lost was staged rarely in the 19th century, but it has been seen more often in the 20th and 21st centuries, with productions by both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, among others. It has also been adapted as a musical, an opera, for radio and television and as a musical film.

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Copyright © 2017 by William Shakespeare.


All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


For information contact :

Sheba Blake Publishing

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Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing


First Edition: January 2017

























FERDINAND, King of Navarre

BEROWNE, Lord attending on the King

LONGAVILLE, Lord attending on the King

DUMAINE, Lord attending on the King

BOYET, Lord attending on the Princess of France

MARCADE, Lord attending on the Princess of France

DON ADRIANO DE ARMADO, a fantastical Spaniard


HOLOFERNES, a Schoolmaster

DULL, a Constable

COSTARD, a Clown

MOTH, Page to Armado



ROSALINE, Lady attending on the Princess

MARIA, Lady attending on the Princess

KATHARINE, Lady attending on the Princess

JAQUENETTA, a country wench

Officers and Others, Attendants on the King and Princess.










The King of Navarre's park.



[Enter the King, BEROWNE, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN.]

KING. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live regist'red upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant devouring Time, The endeavour of this present breath may buy That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge, And make us heirs of all eternity. Therefore, brave conquerors--for so you are That war against your own affections And the huge army of the world's desires-- Our late edict shall strongly stand in force: Navarre shall be the wonder of the world; Our court shall be a little academe, Still and contemplative in living art. You three, Berowne, Dumain, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years' term to live with me, My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes That are recorded in this schedule here: Your oaths are pass'd; and now subscribe your names, That his own hand may strike his honour down That violates the smallest branch herein. If you are arm'd to do as sworn to do, Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.

LONGAVILLE. I am resolv'd; 'tis but a three years' fast: The mind shall banquet, though the body pine: Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

DUMAINE. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified: The grosser manner of these world's delights He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves; To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die, With all these living in philosophy.

BEROWNE. I can but say their protestation over; So much, dear liege, I have already sworn, That is, to live and study here three years. But there are other strict observances: As, not to see a woman in that term, Which I hope well is not enrolled there: And one day in a week to touch no food, And but one meal on every day beside; The which I hope is not enrolled there: And then to sleep but three hours in the night And not be seen to wink of all the day,-- When I was wont to think no harm all night, And make a dark night too of half the day,-- Which I hope well is not enrolled there. O! these are barren tasks, too hard to keep, Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.

KING. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.

BEROWNE. Let me say no, my liege, an if you please: I only swore to study with your Grace, And stay here in your court for three years' space.

LONGAVILLE. You swore to that, Berowne, and to the rest.

BEROWNE. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest. What is the end of study? let me know.

KING. Why, that to know which else we should not know.

BEROWNE. Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from common sense?

KING. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense.

BEROWNE. Come on, then; I will swear to study so, To know the thing I am forbid to know, As thus: to study where I well may dine, When I to feast expressly am forbid; Or study where to meet some mistress fine, When mistresses from common sense are hid; Or, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath, Study to break it, and not break my troth. If study's gain be thus, and this be so, Study knows that which yet it doth not know. Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no.

KING. These be the stops that hinder study quite, And train our intellects to vain delight.

BEROWNE. Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain: As painfully to pore upon a book, To seek the light of truth; while truth the while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look. Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile; So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. Study me how to please the eye indeed, By fixing it upon a fairer eye; Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed, And give him light that it was blinded by. Study is like the heaven's glorious sun, That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks; Small have continual plodders ever won, Save base authority from others' books. These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights That give a name to every fixed star Have no more profit of their shining nights Than those that walk and wot not what they are. Too much to know is to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name.

KING. How well he's read, to reason against reading!

DUMAINE. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!

LONGAVILLE. He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the weeding.

BEROWNE. The spring is near, when green geese are a-breeding.

DUMAINE. How follows that?

BEROWNE. Fit in his place and time.

DUMAINE. In reason nothing.

BEROWNE. Something then in rime.

LONGAVILLE. Berowne is like an envious sneaping frost That bites the first-born infants of the spring.

BEROWNE. Well, say I am: why should proud summer boast Before the birds have any cause to sing? Why should I joy in any abortive birth? At Christmas I no more desire a rose Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows; But like of each thing that in season grows; So you, to study now it is too late, Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.

KING. Well, sit out; go home, Berowne; adieu.

BEROWNE. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with you; And though I have for barbarism spoke more Than for that angel knowledge you can say, Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore, And bide the penance of each three years' day. Give me the paper; let me read the same; And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name.

KING. How well this yielding rescues thee from shame!

BEROWNE. 'Item. That no woman shall come within a mile of my court.'Hath this been proclaimed?

LONGAVILLE. Four days ago.

BEROWNE. Let's see the penalty. 'On pain of losing her tongue.' Who devised this penalty?

LONGAVILLE. Marry, that did I.

BEROWNE. Sweet lord, and why?

LONGAVILLE. To fright them hence with that dread penalty.

BEROWNE. A dangerous law against gentility! 'Item. If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise.' This article, my liege, yourself must break; For well you know here comes in embassy The French king's daughter, with yourself to speak-- A mild of grace and complete majesty-- About surrender up of Aquitaine To her decrepit, sick, and bedrid father: Therefore this article is made in vain, Or vainly comes th' admired princess hither.

KING. What say you, lords? why, this was quite forgot.

BEROWNE. So study evermore is over-shot: While it doth study to have what it would, It doth forget to do the thing it should; And when it hath the thing it hunteth most, 'Tis won as towns with fire; so won, so lost.

KING. We must of force dispense with this decree; She must lie here on mere necessity.

BEROWNE. Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three years' space; For every man with his affects is born, Not by might master'd, but by special grace. If I break faith, this word shall speak for me: I am forsworn 'on mere necessity.' So to the laws at large I write my name; [Subscribes] And he that breaks them in the least degree Stands in attainder of eternal shame. Suggestions are to other as to me; But I believe, although I seem so loath, I am the last that will last keep his oath. But is there no quick recreation granted?

KING. Ay, that there is. Our court, you know, is haunted With a refined traveller of Spain; A man in all the world's new fashion planted, That hath a mint of phrases in his brain; One who the music of his own vain tongue Doth ravish like enchanting harmony; A man of complements, whom right and wrong Have chose as umpire of their mutiny: This child of fancy, that Armado hight, For interim to our studies shall relate, In high-born words, the worth of many a knight From tawny Spain lost in the world's debate. How you delight, my lords, I know not, I; But, I protest, I love to hear him lie, And I will use him for my minstrelsy.

BEROWNE. Armado is a most illustrious wight, A man of fire-new words, fashion's own knight.

LONGAVILLE. Costard the swain and he shall be our sport; And so to study three years is but short.

[Enter DULL, with a letter, and COSTARD.]

DULL. Which is the duke's own person?

BEROWNE. This, fellow. What wouldst?

DULL. I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his Grace's tharborough: but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.

BEROWNE. This is he.

DULL. Signior Arm--Arm--commends you. There's villainy abroad: this letter will tell you more.

COSTARD. Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me.

KING. A letter from the magnificent Armado.

BEROWNE. How long soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.

LONGAVILLE. A high hope for a low heaven: God grant us patience!

BEROWNE. To hear, or forbear laughing?

LONGAVILLE. To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately; or, to forbear both.

BEROWNE. Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us cause to climb in the merriness.

COSTARD. The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.

BEROWNE. In what manner?

COSTARD. In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park; which, put together, is in manner and form following. Now, sir, for the manner,--it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman, for the form,--in some form.

BEROWNE. For the following, sir?

COSTARD. As it shall follow in my correction; and God defend the right!

KING. Will you hear this letter with attention?

BEROWNE. As we would hear an oracle.

COSTARD. Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.

KING. 'Great deputy, the welkin's vicegerent and sole dominator of Navarre, my soul's earth's god and body's fostering patron,'

COSTARD. Not a word of Costard yet.

KING. 'So it is,'--

COSTARD. It may be so; but if he say it is so, he is, in telling true, but so.--

KING. Peace!

COSTARD. Be to me, and every man that dares not fight!

KING. No words!

COSTARD. Of other men's secrets, I beseech you.

KING. 'So it is, besieged with sable-coloured melancholy, I did commend the black-oppressing humour to the most wholesome physic of thy health-giving air; and, as I am a gentleman, betook myself to walk. The time when? About the sixth hour; when beasts most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper: so much for the time when. Now for the ground which; which, I mean, I upon; it is ycleped thy park. Then for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and most preposterous event, that draweth from my snow-white pen the ebon-coloured ink which here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest. But to the place where, it standeth north-north-east and by east from the west corner of thy curious-knotted garden: there did I see that low-spirited swain, that base minnow of thy mirth,'--


KING. 'that unlettered small-knowing soul,'--


KING. 'that shallow vassal,'--

COSTARD. Still me.--

KING. 'which, as I remember, hight Costard,'--


KING. 'sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon, with--with,--O! with but with this I passion to say wherewith,'--

COSTARD. With a wench.

KING. 'with a child of our grandmother Eve, a female; or, for thy more sweet understanding, a woman. Him, I,--as my ever-esteemed duty pricks me on,--have sent to thee, to receive the meed of punishment, by thy sweet Grace's officer, Antony Dull, a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.'

DULL. Me, an't please you; I am Antony Dull.